The Issues of Youth Migration

  • 04/03/2019
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Youth migration, and immigration as a whole, is currently one of the most prevalent topics in the world. Along with gun-control and terrorism it is one of the most fiercely debated subjects, featuring prominently in the US presidential race and the recent Brexit vote. Whilst it’s been made clear (or perhaps not very clear at all) how receiving immigrants can affect a country, how does it affect the country the people are leaving and what are the different reasons for the youth leaving in the first place? Diversity Resource International (DRI), whom work in partnership with Vandu Language Services have recently held seminars in Brighton and London on the subject with Professor Tadesse, Minister of Higher Education in Eritrea visiting to speak on the subject.

So why do young people leave their home countries? There are many different reasons, and they can be split into two sections: Push and Pull factors. Push factors are the reasons people might leave an area, such as nearby conflict in the case of Syria, or causes like poverty, high crime, a lack of services such as hospitals or education, or environmental problems such as crop failure, drought or natural disasters. Pull factors are the reasons an immigrant might want to come to a specific country, such as higher chances of employment, better education, political stability and a country’s wealth. A case study in youth migration is the country of Eritrea; there are push factors like a national service conscription that the government can impose for a very long time for low wages, a problematic border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia, as well as a highly debatable political situation (it could fill another blog itself) that involves a lot of censorship and a government party that has been in power for over twenty years. The pull factors for these young Eritrean’s are quite interesting. There is obviously no national service in the west, education and healthcare are much better, the west is politically stable as well, but an interesting notion that Professor Tadesse recorded when speaking to disaffected youth was that the west was a ‘paradise’. Of course we know this not to be the case, but you can see why it might be strewn this way, social media and tales from Eritrean diaspora, Hollywood movies and glamorisation of western culture. The opportunity that the west seems to promise can be all too seductive to a young man or woman, disillusioned with what they think they can achieve in Eritrea. When you add the push and pull factors up, and then add the preferential treatment Eritreans get, (around 90%, so much that there are reports of Ethiopians and Sudanese pretending to be Eritrean) emigrating can be too alluring to resist, even with an incredibly perilous journey in between.

The results of youth migration are mixed. On an individual level, an immigrant is generally more likely to be wealthier in their new country, women’s authority within their families and in society often rise to a more equal standard and there are chances for higher academic intelligence for these young men and women. However, an absence of parents (as is often the case with youth migration) can have a serious impact upon the psychological, social and emotional development of a child, which can lead to bad behaviour and sometimes poor life decisions. On a grander scale, youth migration can lead to what is known as a ‘brain-drain’, where a country is deprived of the social and economic contributions of its young citizens; this is particularly problematic for a developing country like Eritrea which has a very low rate of returning migrants, resulting in money spent outsourcing for professionals. The other side to this is that places with a higher rate of returning youth migrants of whom have received better education can result in a ‘brain-gain’, meaning better contributions to their society than if they stayed.

Youth migration can affect an individual, a family and a country in varying ways, and the larger the migration invariably leads to a more serious effect on the country the youth migrate from.


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